BEPPU, OITA/KYUSHU, JAPAN - 2007/05/25: Onsen Tamago or Onsen eggs, or eggs cooked in hot springs water, are almost as popular among the Japanese as actual bathing in the onsen. At least they are considered a perfect snack after a long soak in the waters.. (Photo by John S. Lander/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Food - Drink
In Beppu, Japan, Residents Steam Food In Communal 'Hell Ovens'
In both ancient and modern times, cultures around the world have prepared food using their own local resources and cooking methods, and in the Japanese city of Beppu, residents use steam from natural hot springs to cook meals. This method has the attention-grabbing name of jigoku-mushi, which literally translates to “hell-steaming.”
Beppu’s Kannawa neighborhood is home to large brick or concrete ovens called jigoku-gama, or hell ovens, that channel steam generated by the geothermal hot springs underground (or "in hell," so to speak). Twisting the nozzle on these ovens releases a jet of super-hot steam that can cook anything from vegetables to fish to prawns.
“Hell-steaming” dates back to the Edo period, and the process was refined in the Meji period, when the jigoku-gama’s were constructed. These ovens were initially free to use, but entrepreneurs saw the financial potential in inviting tourists to cook their food with this unique method, and jigoku-mushi is a major tourist draw today.
According to Japan Experience, the jigoku-gama tour involves fresh foods like eggs and sweet potatoes set out in front of the ovens, and you can watch the food steam to perfection in special bamboo baskets in front of your very eyes. Atlas Obscura even claims that “you’ll be rewarded with food that tastes like the best version of itself.”